Monthly Archives: September 2003

The Admirable IETF Reform Process

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is engaged in a lengthy bout of self-criticism and attempts to reform the processes by which it creates the Internet standards most of us don't know but love. (If you want a short intro to the IETF, it has a sort of self description and a sort of mission statement.)

Very much in line with the open, participatory ethos I described in Toward a Critical Theory of Cyberspace, the IETF is going about the project of trying to make itself better — a daunting task in light of the self-perceived decline in both the speed and quality of new standards, various workflow difficulties including duplication of effort and inconsistent projects, plus the sense among some participants that the entity is no longer as effectively bottom up and democratic as it used to be. Rather than reject these claims, the IETF establishment, gently herded by IETF Chair Harald Tveit Alvestrand, is addressing these very difficult, sometimes intractable problems head-on. You can monitor their efforts at Status of change efforts within the IETF. The problem-statement working group charter and the problem-statement mailing list provide richer detail for those with the time to delve deep. So far, it's an impressive effort that I think largely justifies my claim that the IETF is the closest thing we've got going to Habermasian discourse in action.

Update: And here's a link to draft-ietf-problem-issue-statement-04.txt which lays it all out.

Posted in Internet | 8 Comments

Our Terrorism-Fighting Tax Dollars At Work

The folks at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) sure have been busy. The BBC reports that US spies monitor whisky plant:

'They said they had been monitoring our webcams because the process of making something very innocuous and pleasant is close to making weapons of mass destruction, apparently.'

There's of course nothing legally or morally wrong with this government or anyone else watching a webcam feed made freely available over the Internet. But given the DTRA's mission…

'The Defense Threat Reduction Agency safeguards America's interests from weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high explosives) by controlling and reducing the threat and providing quality tools and services for the warfighter.'

…haven't they anything more productive to do?

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Spot The Weird Detail

For today's enjoyment, we present a fairly typical Florida news item, Large lizards confiscated from trucker. Can you spot the odd and unusual fact?

A Connecticut truck driver was charged Wednesday with three misdemeanor offenses for traveling with his pets – a 3-foot alligator and a 5-foot caiman.

“He had a dog harness and a leash to walk the caiman with,” said Lt. Joy Hill, spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which levied the charges. “They are not really very warm and cuddly.”

Avery said the crocodilians were his pets and that he had the caiman about 10 years and the alligator for about a year. It is illegal to have an alligator for a pet in Florida, and one must have a Class II permit to have a caiman. Avery had no permit.

Is the odd fact that,

  • A trucker kept good-sized crocs as pets?
  • That he walked the crocs on a dog leash?
  • That he didn't have a croc license?
  • That he was a New Englander who brought his weirdness down to Florida?

No, all of those are the sort of things a good denezin of South Florida must learn to take without blinking. The weird thing about this story is that there's an applicable law and it was enforced

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Irony Distinguished From Chutzpah

Chutzpah, classically, is killing your parents and throwing yourself on the mercy of the court because you are an orphan. Irony is John Ashcroft's Justice Department investigating this in light of this new policy.

A further irony (can it be a mere coincidence?) is that Bush's WMD scandal (like UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's scandal) is not, as a primary matter, going to be about whether he lied to the nation about whether its national survival was threatend by tons of Iraq anthrax, chemical weapons, and nuclear bombs ready to strike us on a moment's notice, but rather about leaking the name of a confidential government employee for political gain.

Update: Digby points out some connections between the Bush spin operation and the Blair spinner-in-chief Alastair Campbell, he of the 'dodgy dossier'. Maybe it's not a further irony, but just 'what goes around comes around'?

Posted in Politics: US | 1 Comment

The Year That Anything Can Happen

If the Cubs can win the division title, then anything is possible (except Washington DC getting a team…). So please don't tell me the Democrats can't win a majority in the Senate. If the Cubs win the World Series, can Democrats dream of a two-house sweep, even despite the DeLay anti-hispanic redistricting in Texas?

Seriously, if senior Bush aides really outed a CIA agent for petty political pique, and the President didn't lift a finger to investigate the matter for months, this will resonate in the heartland. Add in the constant drip, drip of casualties, plus reservists serving longer tours than anyone expected without much feeling of achievement, not to mention respected commentators saying Bush is destroying the Army, and economists nearly unaninimous that Bush is destroying the economy, it is now possible to imagine an electoral dynamic in which Republican congresspeople run away from the Bush White House. And in which their opponents make hay by tying them to Bush policies.

It is no more inevitable than the Cubs winning. But never say never.

Posted in Politics: US | 1 Comment

My Lawyer Can Beat Up Your Lawyer

Via IPKat, a nice English blog devoted to intellectual property, comes a pointer to a New Scientist article reproducing an unusually agressive online warning against misappropriation of text and images: “My intellectual property attorney is a scary-smart guy. He was the youngest person to ever pass the bar exam in his state. Plus he put himself through law school by working as a professional wrestler. I am not making this up.”

It reminds me of when I was in private practice. I spent most of my relatively short career in the London office of a US firm, serving European clients. After a while, I began to understand why certain ones of them liked taking a US lawyer to meetings. To them, it was a way of signalling to their European counterparts, 'See my legal pitbull. Be nice, or I'll sic him on you.'

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